The UK Government said this (Friday) afternoon that large events can be conducted safely as the country emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, citing newly released National Health Service (NHS) Test and Trace data.

Taken from 37 trial events that formed part of the Events Research Programme (ERP) over a four-month period, the data revealed case numbers that “were largely in line with or below community infection rates for the duration of the programme”.

However, the Government stressed that a “cautious approach” should be taken “at unstructured events involving attendees being in close proximity for extended periods of time, when spectators are at high-density pinch points at venues, when travelling to and from events, and when mixing indoors before, during and after events”. The Government did not elaborate on what a “cautious approach” entails.

Night Time Industries Association CEO Michael Kill responded to the announcement by saying: “We are pleased to see that the data supports the ability for cultural events, particular club shows and mass gatherings to take place safely.

“The industry are doing an amazing job of maintaining safe spaces for people to engage socially, and following a month of opening, we are pleased to see consistent figures which show a measured drop in cases and mortality rates.

“We hope that these results will bring a renewed confidence in the key sectors, giving rise to the Government dismissing any possibility of mandating Covid passports as a pre-requisite of entry for cultural settings.”

Highlighting specific examples from the ERP, the Government said that a total of 585 cases were recorded at the time of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone (pictured), which hosted the largest crowd in the UK in over 18 months, with over 350,000 people in attendance across three days.

When the cases were analysed, 343 were likely to have already been infectious around the time of the event, while 242 cases were from people likely to have acquired an infection around the time of the event. In England, over the period of the event, 1.36-1.57% of people were testing positive for COVID-19.

Data from the Wimbledon Championships, which hosted around 300,000 people over a two-week period, recorded 881 cases through NHS Test and Trace.

A total of 299 cases were likely to have already been infectious around the time of the event, with 582 likely to have acquired an infection around the time of the event. In England, over this time period, 0.31-1.36% of people were testing positive for COVID-19.

Furthermore, the Government added that “assumptions cannot be made that transmission definitely happened at the event, nor that individuals became infected at the time of their attendance at an event”.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “We’ve shown that we can reintroduce mass sports and cultural events safely but it is important that people remain cautious when mixing in very crowded settings.

“So that we can keep the football season, theatres and gigs safe with full crowds this winter, I urge sport, music and culture fans to get the vaccine as this is the safest way we can get big events firing on all cylinders once more.”

Image: Carl Jorgensen on Unsplash